Modernising mission critical communications

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The diversity in devices and applications used for mission and business critical communications will continue to increase as digital transformation takes places in users organisations. Today, people are already using a number of devices in their daily operations. On top of that, collaboration among government agencies, as well as communication between different types of users like blue-light organisations, is becoming more intensive and extensive to cope with security, customer service and efficiency challenges. This modernisation of mission critical communications across the public and private sector requires a new leap in technology.

Ricardo Gonzalez, vice president strategy EMEA from Motorola Solutions, discusses the value of long term, high-performance technology for mission critical communications such as digital radio systems, the importance of device interconnectivity in emergencies, and the value of push-to-talk technology for instantaneous communication.

The relevance of radio

TETRA (terrestrial trunked radio) and DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) digital radio systems have become established as the leading technology for mission critical communications for government agencies and organisations. Digital radio systems are also being used in the commercial sector – particularly by critical infrastructure operators such as utility companies, logistics service providers and transportation companies. All these actors appreciate the reliability of digital radio: it offers far better security, reliability, availability and voice quality compared with consumer-grade cellular systems and public networks. In fact, it is such a high-performance technology that users expect them to be around for many years to come. At the same time users expect those digital radio systems to be enhanced with new data-rich technologies that arise from the ever-exponential digital transformation developments.

Sector experts, such as Ryan Darrand of the analysis services provider IHS, are expecting continued strong demand for LMR (Land Mobile Radio) solutions like TETRA and Digital Mobile Radio (DMR), for years to come. Whereas digital two-way radio will be the baseline for critical communications voice services in the future, additional broadband solutions such as LTE devices and private LTE networks – both fixed and highly mobile – will supplement the digital radio infrastructure with a broad data pipe. Existing legacy systems such as desktop PCs, fixed network and wireless devices, will have to be integrated with new communication systems in order to meet the more demanding requirements. Technology stacks will grow alongside the modernisation of mission critical communications.

Prompt coordination in an emergency

Today, company employees use a range of devices for different tasks to ensure maximum flexibility. Provisioning these heterogeneous devices for cross-network communications can be highly complex. In both emergency, as well as routine working scenarios, employees need to be able to share information both quickly and reliably – within their own teams and with other colleagues across a variety of departments. Fast and efficient coordination is important across industries in the private sector.

Often, this information sharing can become incredibly complex. One example is a modern-day airport which can cover a huge geographical area and house employees from a number of separate organisations. When a passenger enters a security zone without authorisation, the police, customs officers and private security guards have to agree and implement an action plan in a matter of seconds. Sometimes the airline crews, check-in staff and ramp employees also have to be involved and up to speed so that the right action is taken quickly.

The importance of interconnectivity can also be demonstrated through the example of utility companies, as they have to communicate with local authorities, their regional network customers and other utility companies on a regular basis because they all operate within a very close-knit network. Interconnected solutions are essential today for the maintenance of smooth everyday operations.

Connectivity at the push of a button

To meet those challenges, government agencies and business enterprises are requesting reliable, stable and flexible group communication systems with push-to-talk functionality – across different devices and networks – to ensure the optimum connectivity of their task forces and employees.

In this context, a reliable Broadband Push-to-Talk (PTT) services become key - as both an LMR augmentation solution, and as stand-alone Push-To-X communication solution. They allow call initiators to set up talk groups and share messages or data with them, and more importantly any other users can be integrated in the communication process – regardless of what network or device they use, from desktop PC and smart phone to fixed network and wireless. There is an intuitive user interface for PTT communication, as well as location tracking services, text messaging and image, video and voice messaging, all provided over a secure network to keep communications safe. A cloud-based solution for commercial and business users also provides flexible and inexpensive PTT software delivering pioneering PTT services. It is ideal for companies in the transport and logistics sectors, utilities enterprises and private security providers. These solutions can operate as software-only, on a user’s existing device or as a hardware and software offerings on devices which are designed to support broadband PTT.

Through this technology, enterprises can accelerate the flow of valuable information like alerts, tasks, reports or images within their organisation, thereby increasing productivity. The speed of PTT provides instantaneous communication, so that teams can stay connected and up to date at all times.

The need for speed

There is a trend for real-time data and video sharing at the deployment location between relevant user groups. For example, when a vehicle or person flees the scene, it is much faster and more effective to share images via PTT than providing a description via voice communication. The crucial seconds saved here are vital, and can often make all the difference.

In summary, it is clear that there is a range of technological solutions for mission and business critical communications, from the ever-relevant radio, to Broadband PTT technology moving beyond voice to image and video. The continuous modernisation of these solutions drive better security and increased efficiency for the user communities, and will continue to be vital across both the public and private sector.

Ricardo Gonzalez, vice president strategy EMEA, Motorola Solutions